Perfect Home Bar
Now, stocking a great home bar is really not that hard to do. It is just based on how much you can afford to spend, and how large you want your arsenal to be. If you have a lot of money to blow and want a top notch bar with the finest curated liquors, then by all means, go forth (also, let’s be friends). However, you can also achieve a successful bar at home filled with the components that you’ll need to make a wonderful selection of drinks without costing you an inordinate sum of cash. However much money you have to spend on creating the perfect home bar, you’ll need to start with the basics. We’ve come up with a grocery list of essentials you’ll need to stock your home bar depending on your budget.
Perfect Home Bar
For many, having a well-stocked home bar is a badge of honor. The liquor you serve can say a lot about you. And sure, some may call it a frivolous affectation. But for those who care, a perfect home bar is something to be strived for – something in which to relish. And so, since we believe a bar can make a house a home, here is our take on the perfect home bar.
Perfect Home Bar
Home Bar Rule #1: Pick alcohol you actually enjoy imbibing. When I first started my own home bar, I only picked spirits that I thought would impress guests when I had them over. I ended up spending a fortune for alcohol that I hardly ever used. While you’ll use your home bar for entertaining, don’t forget that a home bar’s main customer is you. When you mix yourself a cocktail to sip on the weekends while you sit on the patio with your dog, you want to enjoy it. The dog doesn’t care what your favorite gin is. That is of course if this pooch isn’t your dog. He’s so smug.
Remember Home Bar Rule #2: Start small. If you don’t have room or any place to store your home bar, keep your home bar small. Pick two or three different liquors and stick with those. When I was in an apartment, I kept my small bar in a cabinet above the fridge, and I kept my mixers and garnishes in the fridge.
There are few things more enjoyable than having a properly stocked bar in the comfort of your own home. We’re not talking about having one go-to bottle stashed away in the back of your freezer and a 6-pack of beer that you picked up on your way home from work. What you need, friends, is a solid bar stocked with the basics so you can entertain (and impress) guests, as well as treat yourself to the gift of a properly mixed drink. Starting a home bar may seem daunting or superfluous, but when your lady friend (or your boss or anyone else that needs to be impressed) comes over and you can artfully craft for her a cocktail of her choosing, you’ll surely be glad you took our advice. We’re not saying that procuring the perfect Moscow Mule or Gimlet for your lady or your boss is guaranteed to help you score that second date or that promotion… but we’re not not saying that, either.
See? A not too shabby price tag for a pretty sweet (and very well-stocked!) home bar. We’d call that a win-win situation in our book. And, once you’ve got all your glassware and bar tools together, the cost of stocking your bar only gets cheaper from there on out. Now all you need to do is get shopping, learn some bar terms and signature cocktail recipes (Google can seriously be your best friend here), and invite over all your friends to show off your inner bartender.
Building a home bar isn’t a onetime affair—you’ve got to commit to restocking when something gets low. Which means you need a permanent place to keep your supply. A section of your bookshelf will do just fine, but if you’re serious about your nightcaps, or if your friends tend to use your house as their own private corner bar, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a bar cart. You can buy one ready-made (this one, at left, is from West Elm), or you can repurpose anything with a surface and legs, like an old desk. Either way, this isn’t the time to indulge your Downton Abbey fetish: A bar cart doesn’t need wheels, unless you’re planning to roll it out from a butler’s pantry.
If you do move into a bigger place and you’ve really enjoyed being a home mixologist, then I can’t recommend installing a permanent home bar in your home enough. Many homes today come with wet bars and storage space for a home bar. If you don’t have that, with a little initiative and sweat, you can install your own bar in an unused room in the house.
If you’d like something a bit more distinguished than your kitchen cabinet to serve as the home for your home bar, consider getting a cocktail cabinet or mini bar. They’re small pieces of handsome furniture that you can usually put up against the wall. They’re nice because they can serve as a gathering point without having a huge bar installed in your home. Cocktail cabinets take up very little space, but can hold quite a bit of alcohol and glassware. I have friend who picked up a vintage cocktail cabinet at the antique store. It was a bit rough, but with a bit of elbow grease he was able to spruce it up. Here’s a nice example of a retro cocktail cabinet from the 50s:
I asked our bar manager here at 7th Settlement Brewery, “Jeff, name me the top ten must-stock bottles in a home bar.” Jeff thought for a moment and said, “Well my taste won’t be perfect for everyone.” Jeff is so thoughtful. But I reassured him, “Jeff,” I said again, “you’ve been at this a long while now. You’ve got excellent taste in liquor, just have at it!” And so Jeff thought another moment, blushed a little, and offered something more or less, exactly like this:
Rum: Make sure you have a white rum in your home bar, which is quintessential for mixing many cocktails. For punches, dark rum is key. If this home bar is for your personal use, white rum will do you just fine. If you plan to throw a party, add a dark rum into the mix.
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With a well-stocked home bar, you can mix just about any cocktail your happy-hour yearning heart desires. It’s quite an investment at first, but just think of all the money you’ll save not ordering those overpriced cocktails at the bar. Knowing what’s essential and what’s just extra can be tricky, unless you have this awesome chart from our friends at Vine Pair below.
Other: These aren’t necessarily essentials, but it’s good to add a few extras to your bar, depending on what you like. If you’re a wine drinker, have a good white and red, at the least, in your home bar. If you enjoy a nice brew, beer is always welcome to the party. If you’re entertaining or throwing a party, be sure to pick up a little of each to imbibe all of your guests.
I’ve had neighbors ask me if I want the bar in their cellar, which has been storing old X-mas ornaments for the past few decades. I see them at garage and estate sales, on craigslist and in junk shops. If you’re looking for a home bar, put the drink down and get out there.
Behind any good bar is a good book on how to mix cocktails. I would highly advise buying a how-to guide to help you get a solid understanding of spirits, mixers, and general cocktail foundations, like The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks by Dale Degroff. Dale is one of the most respected barmen in the business, and his book is a perfect guide on how to mix both classic and new age cocktails.
9 of 9 The Nonalcoholic Bar No one should be punished for passing up a cocktail, but if plain soda and canned juice are the only alternatives, an abstainer is likely to wind up pouting in the corner. Fortunately, there are enough flavorful nonalcoholic beverages to fill an entire bar and bring cheer to the soberest of souls. Mix fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice with a splash of seltzer to make a light cocktail. Also try sweetened, diluted lime and lemon juice served over crushed ice, or whip fresh or frozen berries in a blender with ice and a dash of lime. Get our Nonalcoholic Drink Recipes